Religious Liberty

Right-Wing Voucher Push Undermines Public Education & Constitution

Religious Right leaders and anti-government ideologues have shared a decades-long dream: to dismantle public education through a system of vouchers that would divert taxpayer funds out of public schools and into religious schools and other private academies.  For some, privatizing education is primarily a religious or ideological project. For others, the billions of dollars that flow through public schools is a tempting source of cash. For some it’s both.  Whatever the incentive, voucher proponents are finding success.  A renewed push for the creation and expansion of voucher and voucher-like schemes is contributing to a disturbing rise in public education dollars being diverted to schools that face little to no oversight or public accountability and teach religious dogma at the expense of science.

Most recently, on February 28, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that Douglas County’s voucher program – labeled a “Choice Scholarship Program” in accord with the messaging tactics of Republican spinmeister Frank Luntz – does not violate the state Constitution’s explicit prohibitions against public funding for religious education, even though 18 of the county’s 23 “private partner” schools are religious.  As reported by the Associated Press, dissenting Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Steve Bernard wrote, "In my view,[the Colorado Constitution] prohibits public school districts from channeling public money to private religious schools. I think that the Choice Scholarship Program is a pipeline that violates this direct and clear constitutional command." 

The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State say they will appeal to the state Supreme Court.  Heather L. Weaver, staff attorney for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief said “Public education funds should be used to help improve our public schools, not to promote religion in violation of the state constitution.”  Unfortunately, the Colorado case is not the first in which courts have been willing to go along with voucher plans.  In 2011, in a 5-4 ruling, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority allowed an Arizona tax-credit / voucher program to stand while weakening the ability of citizens to challenge programs that divert public funds for religious purposes.

State legislators and their corporate backers in the American Legislative Exchange Council have pushed similar voucher-like tax breaks in other states, often employing the language of “choice” and “options” to divert public attention from the intent and effect of these schemes.  After conservative victories in state elections in 2010, governors and legislators in many states, including Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Florida, pushed to create or expand programs that divert public education dollars into religious schools and other private academies.

Among the most aggressive is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is basically pushing an effort to privatize public education in his state.  He has instituted a massive voucher program grounded in the “model legislation” pushed by ALEC, which honored Jindal in 2011 with its Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award.  Think Progress notes that Jindal’s plan will divert huge sums from public schools:  “Since the public schools will lose commensurate funding every time one of their students opt for a voucher, the state’s public school system could by some estimates lose up to $3.3 billion annually once the program is fully implemented. “

Ed Kilgore noted last summer in Washington Monthly:

In heading his state in the direction of universally available vouchers rationalized by public school failure, Jindal is not, of course, holding any of the private school beneficiaries accountable for results, or for common curricula, or, it appears, for much of anything. A big chunk of the money already out there is being snapped up by conservative evangelical schools with exotic and hardly public-minded curricular offerings, with the theory being that any public oversight would interfere with the accountability provided by “the market.” So if you want your kid to attend, at public expense, the Christian Nationalist Academy for Servant-Leader Boys & Fecund Submissive Girls, that’s okay by Bobby.

Lack of accountability is a real concern.  While proponents of voucher programs paint a picture of a poor student being given a chance to attend an elite private academy, most of those schools have few openings, meaning that the “choice” offered to many students and parents is something far different, including fly-by-night schools with little track record of their own.  According to the Louisiana Budget Project,

Louisiana requires almost no accountability from voucher schools....While voucher students are required to take the same assessment tests as public school students, there are no penalties for private schools if they fail to measure up to their public counterparts. In fact, Gov. Jindal vetoed language in a 2011 appropriations bill that would have removed participating schools if their students’ scores lagged those in the lowest performing schools in the Recovery School District, which incorporates most New Orleans public schools.

So if public schools have lousy test scores, they're failures and their students all get vouchers. But if the private schools have lousy test scores, then....nothing. Presumably the magic of the free market will fix them up.

In June 2011, an investigation by Miami New Times found a breathtaking lack of oversight and accountability in Florida’s voucher program for disabled students, likening it to “a perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats.”

In addition to defunding public schools at the expense of unaccountable private schools, voucher programs end up using tax dollars to promote sectarian religious education and proselytizing. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops describes Catholic schools as central to the church’s “New Evangelization.”   And in Louisiana and elsewhere, tax dollars are being used to support schools that teach young-earth creationism, revisionist U.S. history published by fundamentalist Bob Jones University, and other religious dogma applied to civics, politics, and literature. 

The Agenda Behind the Voucher Agenda

During “National School Choice Week,” which ran from January 27 to February 3, the Heritage Foundation published a special report, “Choosing to Succeed,” which included a call for abandoning the “myth” and “relic” of the common school.  In January, Americans for Prosperity published a report blaming the federal government for the failure of education reform and promoting vouchers and voucher-like tax schemes, such as Pennsylvania’s “Education Improvement Tax Credit.” 

On February 5, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where he argued that education funds should follow students whether they “choose” public, private, or charter schools. He asserted, “One of our priorities this year will be to move heaven and earth to fix our education system for the most vulnerable.”  It is important to understand that targeted voucher programs that allow students from poor families, children with disabilities or students in underperforming schools to attend private schools that will accept them are not the ultimate goal of school privatizers. They are a tactical means to a much larger strategic end, which is the end of public education altogether, as pushed by David Koch in his run for the White House in 1980. As Milton Friedman, intellectual godfather of the movement, said “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system.”

In a May 2011 article, researcher Rachel Tabachnik reviewed the history and financing of the school privatization movement. Its financial backers have been pouring millions of dollars into state politics for the past decade in order to build legislatures more to their liking.  Right-wing donors such as Betsy DeVos and the Walton Foundation funnel money through groups with media-friendly names like All Children Matter, its successor the American Federation for Children, and AFC-affiliated state-level political action committees like Students First, which raised more than $6 million for the 2010 election cycle in Pennsylvania.

“Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling,” wrote Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast in 1997. “In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.” Heartland has received significant funding from right-wing foundations over the years, including the Charles Koch Foundation.

Another major ideological target is public employee unions, and teachers unions in particular.  A 2011 New York Times story about FreedomWorks’ lobbying for a Pennsylvania voucher program noted, “FreedomWorks is pushing anti-union legislation in several states, and saw the school choice legislation as part of that larger battle.”

School vouchers are just one part of the immensely complicated arena of education policy.  A wide array of strategies and policy proposals is often confusingly lumped together under the banner of “education reform” or “school choice,” terms that can encompass everything from curricula, student testing and teacher evaluation, charter and cyber-charter schools and more.  Some strategies may identify effective reforms that can be replicated and used to strengthen public schools and improve educational opportunity.  Others, like vouchers, are designed to weaken or dismantle public education altogether.

As parents, educators, and activists evaluate various education reform proposals, it is worth keeping in mind the question posed  by Stan Karp, in the Spring 2011 edition of Rethinking Schools, when he said that what is ultimately at stake in the school reform debate is “whether the right to a free public education for all children is going to survive as a fundamental democratic promise in our society, and whether the schools and districts needed to provide it are going to survive as public institutions, collectively owned and democratically managed – however imperfectly – by all of us as citizens. Or will they be privatized and commercialized by the corporate interests that increasingly dominate all aspects of our society?”

Note: this is the first in a series of posts about right-wing efforts to undermine public education, often in the name of education reform.

See also: Predatory Privatization, a 2012 Right Wing Watch In Focus report; and  Voucher Veneer: The Deeper Agenda to Privatize Public Education, a 2003 report from People For the American Way Foundation.

 

 

Tony Perkins: 'Totalitarian Homosexual Lobby' Out to Destroy Religious Freedom with ENDA

While the Supreme Court prepares to take up cases on marriage equality, the Family Research Council’s latest mailing [PDF] takes on ENDA – the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  “Like a B-grade 1950’s horror-movie, ENDA is coming back from the dead,” warns FRC President Tony Perkins. Perkins says President Obama is working with the “totalitarian homosexual lobby” to sneak ENDA into law, and if that happens, “Our freedom of religion will be destroyed.” The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer sounded a similar alarm in January.

“In fact,” says Perkins in his new letter, “under ENDA biblical morality becomes illegal.”

What ENDA would really do is simply extend existing protections against various forms of legal discrimination in the workplace to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The real point of the FRC letter is to raise money from people who think persecution of Christians in America is just around the corner, if not well under way:

“And no battle could be more urgently important than the battle against NEDA.  The rights of more than 60 million Americans – the right to live and share our faith and live according to biblical values – are literally at risk of being vaporized by a single vote of Congress or the stroke of the President’s pen.”

Polls show overwhelming public support for protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination on the job. But that doesn’t matter to FRC, which has a lot invested in convincing its supporters that LGBT equality is incompatible with religious freedom.  

Several years ago, FRC warned that a federal hate crimes law would be used to silence preachers.  Other religious right leaders said Christians would be tossed into jail for preaching against homosexuality. That legislation was signed into law in 2009; as Perkins himself makes clear, the freedom to trash-talk LGBT people has survived.

'Religious Liberty' Panelist: Compromise is of the Devil

The Family Research Council hosted a panel discussion Wednesday on religious liberty in America.  If you have paid any attention at all to the frantic warnings from FRC’s Tony Perkins that tyranny is on the march, you could have guessed what was coming.  The overall theme of the conversation was that the HHS mandate for insurance coverage of contraception is a dire threat to religious freedom in America.  So are the advance of marriage equality and laws against anti-gay discrimination – or the “sexual liberty agenda.”

The panel featured three lawyers: Adele Keim of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Kellie Fiedorek of the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund) and Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council.

Keim talked about Becket’s client Hobby Lobby, which is suing the Obama administration over the contraception mandate.  Or as Keim insisted on calling it, the contraception/abortifacient mandate. Keim argued that business owners are no less deserving of religious accommodation than churches or religiously affiliated nonprofits, saying “Americans do not lose their First Amendment rights when they go to work.” Of course by the standard she was invoking, many Americans could find their own rights and access to health care dictated by the religious beliefs of their employer.

The ADF’s Fiedorek focused on the “great peril” to religious liberty posed by the “agenda to expand sexual liberty and redefine marriage.”   She said in the conflict between sexual liberty and religious liberty, "people of faith" are "the ones being marginalized." She recounted a litany of such “persecution,” including now-familiar stories of a New Mexico photographer and a Colorado baker who were penalized under state anti-discrimination laws when they declined to serve same-sex couples celebrating commitment ceremonies.  Fiedorek compared cases in which businesses are required not to discriminate against gay couples to requiring an African American photographer to take pictures at a KKK event or a Jewish baker to create a cake decorated with a swastika.  She called it “particularly atrocious” that Catholic social service agencies were being required to abide by anti-discrimination ordinances – and were being “forced” to close.  She began and closed her presentation with quotes from the movie Chariots of Fire, ending with one that includes, “Don’t compromise. Compromise is a language of the devil.”

Klukowski talked about the role of religious freedom in the settling of America and the founding of the U.S.  And he recycled ridiculous religious right charges that the Obama administration believes not in freedom of religion but in the narrower “freedom of worship,” a notion that he said would be “profoundly disturbing” to the founding fathers.

The most interesting question from the audience focused on implications of the Bob Jones University case, and on whether the racialist Christian Identity movement could make the same religious liberty claims the lawyers were defending.  Why, the questioner asked, couldn’t the “conscience” rights the lawyers wanted for business owners not be claimed by a Christian Identity-affiliated business owner to deny doing business with African American people or interracial couples?

After a moment of awkward silence, Klukowski said that in the Bob Jones case, the Supreme Court had said the university could continue its racially discriminatory policies, but that its tax exemption was a benefit conferred by the government and could therefore be removed, especially in light of the post-civil war constitutional amendments addressing racial discrimination.  Klukowski did not directly address whether and how that principle could, would, or should apply to the current conversation about anti-gay discrimination.  He gave a confusing statement about what he said was the right of a business owner to throw someone out of their store for wearing a certain T-shirt or carrying a Bible.  The First Amendment, he says, allows people to be jerks in their private lives, but it was not clear whether he meant that the relationship between a business and its customers was “purely private” or falls into the category of public accommodation.

The Perils of Teaching the Bible in Public Schools

Rob Boston at Americans United notes that the Arkansas House just voted to require the state’s Education Board to approve elective classes about the Bible if they meet appropriate standards.  The Supreme Court has said the Bible may be taught about in public schools when “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.”

But teaching about the Bible without teaching it religiously is not an easy thing to do. It requires carefully designed curricula, well-intentioned and well-trained educators, and a commitment to meaningful oversight.  People For the American Way was part of a religiously and politically diverse group of organizations that worked together to produce the 1999 publication The Bible in Public Schools, a First Amendment Guide. That guide emphasized that how any such course is taught will determine whether it passes constitutional muster:

When teaching about the Bible in a public school, teachers must understand the important distinction between advocacy, indoctrination, proselytizing, and the practice of religion – which is unconstitutional – and teaching about religion that is objective, nonjudgmental, academic, neutral, balanced, and fair – which is constitutional.

But that’s not how if often works in practice. In 2000, People For the American Way Foundation published a scathing expose, The Good Book Taught Wrong: Bible History Classes in Florida Public Schools. The PFAW Foundation investigation found that “Bible History” classes were often being taught more like Christian Sunday School classes from a sectarian, Protestant perspective. Bible stories were treated as literal history. Among lessons and exam questions asked of students:

  • "If you had a Jewish friend who wanted to know if Jesus might be the expectant [sic] Messiah, which book [of the Gospels] would you give him?"
  • "Compose an explanation of who Jesus is for someone who has never heard of Him."  
  • "Why is it hard for a non-Christian to understand things about God?"
  • "What is Jesus Christ's relationship to God, to creation, and to you?"
  • "Who, according to Jesus, is the father of the Jews? The devil."

That expose led Florida officials to yank those classes and revamp the curricula.

But more than a decade later, similar problems persist, as the Texas Freedom Network documented in a January report that found classes designed more to evangelize students to a literalist, fundamentalist view of the Bible rather than to teach about its role in literature and history. Included in the lesson plans examined by TFN were characterizations of Judaism as a flawed and incomplete religion, Christian-nation approaches to US history, and material “explaining” racial origins via the sons of Noah.

Are Arkansas legislators and education officials prepared to invest in the development of curricula, the training of educators, and meaningful oversight into how the classes are taught?

Swanson: Wombs of Women on Birth Control 'Embedded' with 'Dead Babies'

Well, here’s some medical research we hadn’t heard about. Generations Radio host Kevin Swanson, who last week delved memorably into feminist theory, tells us this week that “certain doctors and certain scientists” have researched the wombs of women on the pill and found “there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb…Those wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.”

Swanson must be speaking with the same doctors as former Rep. Todd Akin. Even Kevin Peeples, whom Swanson is interviewing about his anti-contraception documentary Birth Control: How Did We Get Here?, isn’t quite sold on the evidence.

Swanson: I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.

Peeples: We’ve actually heard on both sides of that. We’re researching that and want to make sure we speak correctly to that in our second film. But we have medical advice on both sides of the table there, so we want to make sure that we communicate that properly.

Swanson: It would seem, and I realize that people are a little split on what are all the effects of the birth control pill, but it would seem that there’s a tremendous risk in the use of it for the life of children.

Earlier in the interview, Peeples and Swanson discuss how birth control came to be widely used and accepted by many churches. Women, Peeples laments, “desire the men’s role” and are now missing out on “the role God put them in that he laid out in Genesis.” Before World War II, Peeples claims, “abortion, sterilization, eugenics and birth control were all tied together” until “Hitler took the fall for taking it very aggressively and dramatically.”

Peeples: It starts with men and women fighting and not being happy with the role that God put them in that he laid out in Genesis. So whenever you seek to desire, when women seek to desire the men’s role, they lose the part and the idea of what children does, not just for the kingdom and not just does with their family, but does for their gender role.

Swanson: Are you saying that the population control stuff, egalitarian feminism, birth control, abortion, they’re all sort of interrelated?

Peeples: Yeah, it wasn’t until after World War II that they begin to separate them. Abortion, sterilization, eugenics and birth control were all tied together, they were all kind of a package for eugenics and population control. Hitler took the fall for taking it very aggressively and dramatically, and so they said, ‘Hey, let’s kind of take this back, let’s get rid of the negative things and let’s play on Christian liberty, let’s play on freedom, let’s play on people kind of taking this upon themselves to control population rather than forcing it on them. So, again, it’s just another effect of not researching our history to know what happened in the world alongside of the Church.

Swanson Predicts the Future: Homeschooled Children Will be Given to Pedophiles, Gays Will Burn Christians at the Stake

Kevin Swanson of Generations Radio has a dark view of what will come if Colorado passes a bill allowing civil unions for same-sex couples. As soon as 2022, Swanson warns, the government will snatch kids from homeschooling families and deliver them to members of the North American Man/Boy Love Association, a tiny fringe group that looms large in the nightmares of the anti-gay movement. He cites the discredited Regnerus study, which drew conclusions about LGBT parenting without actually studying  LGBT parents.

Swanson: You need to understand the agenda here. What’s happening is they want homosexuals to be able to be involved in adoption and foster care as much anybody else. So picture a nice little homeschool family, just trying to do the right thing. An anonymous tip comes in, social services swoops in, they grab the kids in the year 2022 and the kids get remanded into a home with homosexuals and these particular homosexuals happen to be tied into NAMBLA and other things. You know what’s going to happen. There will be proper indoctrination into a certain kind of worldview, shall we say.

Buehner: One that the Bible calls for capital punishment. That kind of worldview. It’ll be a tragedy in that house.

Swanson: Yeah. It’s a tragedy. It’s a tragedy. And I think there are a lot of concerned parents. There are concerned Catholic parents. There are concerned homeschool parents. And especially when you get a Regnerus study that comes out and says they’re ten times more likely to be touched sexually by a parent in a homosexual home than, you know, the normal American secular home. Wow. That’s frightening.

But it won’t end there. Swanson walks us through his version of gay history, from “weird” and “decadent” marriages during the reign of Nero to the early 20th century when there were only “three homosexuals in the world” to the present day when “we have a problem that’s probably about 10,000 times if not 100,000 times worse than it was 100 years ago.” We’re coming full circle, Swanson argues, and soon gay-friendly churches “will do their best to burn Christians at the stake or do what Nero did… because that’s sort of the history of homosexuals.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the first time society’s had to deal with this kind of issue, but man, it is out of the closet, it is probably more significant, it is probably more widespread than it has ever been in the history of the world. Just remember about 100 years ago, you had three homosexuals in the world as far as anybody really knew. There was a Canadian named Robert Ross, an Englishman named Oscar Wilde, an American named Walt Whitman. They led the charge in the early 1900’s and wound up in and out of the prison system and in court and so forth for a period of time. And again, there was only about three that anybody knew of and it was hardly anything that was mentioned among the established world at that time, that is in Europe, Canada and America. But you did have those three men, as far as history bears out, Robert Ross, Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman were well-known for some level of homosexual activity, although they could not call themselves homosexuals at that time.

Well now, of course, it’s the most out of the closet and the encouragement to the homosexual lifestyle is everywhere and we have a problem that’s probably about 10,000 times if not 100,000 times worse than it was 100 years ago. I don’t know how far this one’s gonna go my friends. I’m not sure the world has ever gone to homosexual marriage. I think Nero tried it, it was very, very odd, very weird, very, very decadent for the Roman Empire. It’s about the worst the Roman Empire ever, ever got, under Nero. And of course the persecutions that came with Nero were intense for the Church of Christ in Rome at that time. Today, it might be a little different because you have a lot of quote-unquote apostate Christian churches that have adopted homosexuality and they will do their best to burn Christians at the stake or do what Nero did, I’m sure, in the years to come, because that’s sort of the history of homosexuals and what they have done ever since they were banging on the doors outside of Lot’s house.

 

Swanson Explains the 'Perfect Correlation' Between 'Faithfulness to God's Word' and National Wealth

Kevin Swanson of Generations Radio devoted part of his program today to explaining why some nations are wealthier than others. “It’s almost a perfect correlation between degree of faithfulness to God’s Word and the piece of the pie they get out of the gross world product,” Swanson explained. This, he said, is why Protestant nations are doing well and Italy, where “the faith has faded” is struggling:

The Protestants’ ratio for wealth, in terms of wealth to population, they’re at a 4.4. Catholics at 1.5, Orthodox are 1.9, communists are .5, Buddhists are at .34, the Muslims at .23, and the Hindus at .2. Friends, I mean it’s incredible. It’s almost a perfect correlation between degree of faithfulness to God’s Word and the piece of the pie they get out of the gross world product.

Turns out the meek do inherit the Earth. Evildoers shall be cut off but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the Earth. For yet a little while, the wicked shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the Earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. A good man leaves inheritance to his children’s children. The wealth, the sinner’s laid up for the just. You know, believe that God can pull that off in history? Believe that Jesus Christ can pull that off in history? Well, they do actually. As it turns out, God does pull this off in history.

Protestants have by far, by far, by far the largest proportion of the Gross World Product as compared to the proportion of population, at a 4.4 ratio. Catholics come in number two at 1.5, the Orthodox are at 1.0. And again, as the fate begins to fade, you know, you begin to see the faith fade and fade away and fade away into the memory of the average citizen who actually kind of goes to church but doesn’t have any idea what the Church has to say or has to do about anything, and ergo, the lowest birthrate in Europe is Italy, ok? Get it? Get it? They’re not, the Catholic faith doesn’t really sink into the warp and the woof of these people anymore, pretty much the faith has faded.

Swanson goes on to explain why he thinks certain nations have failing economies. Libya’s economic woes, he contends, exist because “they’ve driven out every Christian and every Jew they could find”:

I looked at the significant nations, with the worst nations in terms of GDP in decline even as we speak. As it turns out, Dave, the nations destroying their own economies right now, seven Islam, four Roman Catholic, two Buddhist and one Orthodox – Greece is the Orthodox nation destroying their economy right now. So, of the very, very worst nations in terms of GDP and decline, friends, it’s Islam, Roman Catholic, Orthodox. And the very, very worst state, the very, very worst is Libya. The worst in terms of GDP in decline. It turns out that between 1960 and the present day, Dave, they’ve driven out every Christian and every Jew they could find. They drove out all the Jews, all the Christians, and they finally got their own country. And the Muslims have the very, very worst nation in the world when it comes to GDP in decline.
 

 

Anti-Muslim Activists Apoplectic Over PFAW's Michele Bachmann Petition

On Monday, People For the American Way delivered a petition with 178,000 signatures to House Speaker John Boehner calling for the removal of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Bachmann, one of Congress’ leading purveyors of conspiracy theories, earned rebukes from Boehner and others last year when she accused several Muslim-American government employees, include top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, of being secret agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The petition, to put it mildly, hit a nerve among Bachmann’s allies in the anti-Muslim Right. FrontPageMag, an online outfit led by David Horowitz, has published a full three articles defending Bachmann and accusing PFAW of “smearing” the “vindicated” Bachmann by launching an “all-out war” on her.  In one article, Robert Spencer of JihadWatch argues, “If they really had any genuine concern for the American way, instead of calling for her removal from the Intelligence committee, the People for the American Way would be calling for Bachmann to be appointed to chair that committee.”

Yesterday, Horowitz launched his own petition, titled, ironically, “Stop the Witch Hunt Against Rep. Bachmann.”

Horowitz and Spencer aren’t the only ones coming to Bachmann’s defense. The Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney, who was the source of the bulk of Bachmann’s accusations against Abedin, and conservative columnist Diana West discussed the petition on Wednesday’s edition of Secure Freedom Radio. People For the American Way, Gaffney suggested, is part of the “Red-Green Axis” and should be called instead “People For the Islamist Way”:

Gaffney: I wanted to turn to a woman who has probably understood this jihadist enterprise, most especially the civilization jihadist element of it, that is to say the so-called non-violent -- actually pre-violent form -- that we’ve talked about in the book that you contributed marvelously to, Sharia: The Threat to America, namely Michele Bachmann. She has been savaged now for almost a year for having actually raised an alarm about some of this. What’s going on with her at the moment and what should our listeners be thinking about it and doing?

West: Well, you have People For the American Way, a leftist advocacy group, actually putting together a petition asking to have Speaker John Boehner to remove Michele Bachmann from the House Intelligence Committee. Now this actually all ties in to what we were talking about already because FOX has also savaged Michele Bachmann, specifically going back to last summer when she and a few of her colleagues were raising questions about Muslim Brotherhood penetration into the United States government. Specifically, one of the cause celebre was the perhaps penetration, her question of the secretary of state’s office with her top aide being Huma Abedin, who we’ve spoken about before. And this is one of these…

Gaffney: Closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood.

West: Correct.

Gaffney: I think what we’re really getting at here is Michele Bachmann is being vilified for having exposed some of that influence operation, penetration problem and she should be, if anything, lauded for it, not taken to task by the Red-Green Axis, as they call it, doing business under the form of People For the Islamist Way.

Santorum: Colleges 'Indoctrinating' Students in 'Sea of Antagonism Toward Christianity'

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins welcomed former presidential contender Rick Santorum to his “Washington Watch” radio program on Tuesday, where the two discussed the moral decline of the nation. Santorum blamed colleges and universities for “indoctrinating in a sea of relativism and a sea of antagonism toward Christianity,” leading to the “symptoms” of abortion, marriage and pornography:

Santorum: The cultural indicators that I talked about earlier that are sort of going the wrong way, we're, you know, in ever-increasing numbers, less and less people here in America, you know, and believe in God, and believe in Jesus Christ, and believe in truth and right and wrong. It’s understandable, I mean, if you certainly, if you look at popular culture and what comes out of Hollywood, if you go to our schools and particularly our colleges and universities, they are indoctrinating in a sea of relativism and a sea of antagonism toward Christianity -- religion in general, but Christianity in particular. And so it’s understandable that that happens, but we, you’re right. Abortion is a symptom, marriage is a symptom, I mean pornography is, all of these are symptoms to the fundamental issue that we’ve gotten away from the truth and the Truth-Giver.

Earlier in the program, in a conversation with FOX News’s Todd Starnes, Perkins fondly reminisced about the days “before repressive government” when his elementary school teacher would discipline her students with a yardstick:

Perkins: I remember my third grade teacher had a big Bible, one of the biggest Bibles I ever saw, sitting on the corner of her desk, and on the other side of the desk was a yardstick, and I think she used the yardstick more. In classrooms today, you couldn’t have either one. But that was, we date things in terms of A.D., that was B.R.G., Before Repressive Government, back when God was still welcome in our schools.

Michele Bachmann Back on the Intelligence Committee, Still Spouting Conspiracy Theories

Last year, after Michele Bachmann launched a smear campaign against Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin and alleged that there had been “deep penetration” by the Muslim Brotherhood in high levels of government, People For the American Way launched a campaign to get Bachmann kicked out of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. On the Intelligence Committee, she has special access to sensitive national security information, which probably shouldn’t be in the hands of a fear-mongering conspiracy theorist. But this week, Bachmann announced that she had been reassigned to the Intelligence Committee, despite the protests.

In light of the news, PFAW has revived its petition drive and the campaign has been covered by USA Today, the Huffington Post, and the Ed Show:

Back in July, we published a rundown of Bachmann’s worst conspiracy theories. Since then, she’s added to her repertoire, claiming that President Obama has “enforced Islamic speech codes here in the U.S.” and is intent on imposing Sharia law at home and abroad.

You can sign PFAW’s petition to remove Bachmann from the Intelligence Committee here.

Swanson and Buehner's 2013 Predictions: Human-Cell Phone Marriage, Chrislam, a Name Change for Time Magazine

On the New Years Eve episode of Generations Radio, Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner offered up their review of 2012 and their predictions for 2013. As Brian wrote yesterday, they were not fans of 2012 – the year that President Obama won reelection, which “solidified our doom” and guaranteed the election of “a bunch of softy-wofty, weeny socialists for years to come.”

Their predictions for 2013 are not any more cheery.

Swanson forsees “the Muslims and the liberal Presbyterians getting together to form Chrislam,” which actually might not be a big deal because “chances are, at the end of the day they’re all Muslims anyway”:

Swanson: There will be a merger of PCUSA [Presbyterian Church (USA)], a liberal Christian organization, denomination, there will be a merger of PCUSA and a Muslim sect to form the first Mustererian denomination. How do you say that? Musterian denomination.

Buenher: Chrislam.

Swanson: So the Muslims and the liberal Presbyterians get together to form Chrislam. There’s just synthesis going on, so I’m just waiting for that mix. Now, chances are Dave, that at the end of the day they’re all Muslims anyway.

Swanson further predicts that Time magazine will “turn into the Daily Dragon or maybe the Daily Harlot…and then maybe Barack Obama rides on the Harlot or the Beast.” Further, Chief Justice John Roberts will declare the “confiscation of assault weapons” a “tax” and that Joe Biden will “come back with a recommendation to make school shootings illegal.” Buehner adds his own prediction that Colorado will pass a civil union bill allowing human-pet and human-cell phone marriage.

Swanson: You know Newsweek became the Daily Beast? Have you  ever seen that? I went online about a week ago trying to find a Newsweek article and I ended up on the Daily Beast site. What is that? Well, Dave, they were out of money, they couldn’t publish it anymore, so now they’ve got the DailyBeast.com. Well, here’s the prediction for 2013, to maintain the general apocalyptic theme here, Time magazine will turn into the Daily Dragon or maybe the Daily Harlot.

Buehner: I think the latter is probably more appropriate.

Swanson: And then maybe Barack Obama rides on the Harlot or the Beast. I don’t know how that works. But it’s in Revelation, check it out, it’s in Revelation. Ok, John Roberts declares the confiscation of assault weapons not a violation of the Second Amendment but a tax under the Interstate Commerce Clause. That wouldn’t surprise me. I mean we’ve got the precedent, and the precedents come from the top, top dog, the top ,top court of the land. Ok, and Joe Biden comes back with a recommendation to make school shootings illegal. That would be helpful. No, I think it would just inspire more school shootings.

Buehner: Well, you really don’t want to give legal cover to those who want to shoot in schools. I mean, that would make sense. Kevin, here’s one. You know that now that Colorado  has a Democrat in the governor and both houses and the courts are controlled by Democrats, I think Colorado is going to pass the first-in-the-nation civil union bill where somebody, a human, and their pet, can be recognized in a full civil union, full benefits and…

Swanson: What about a human and a cell phone?

Buehner: Well, that’s only a two-year contract. And then you get to change it after two years and get a new plan.

Finally, Swanson and Buehner get to natural disasters and war. While they point out that liberal bastions San Francisco and New York have already been hit by the“natural disasters” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mayor Bloomberg, God’s judgement is still incomplete. Buehner boldly predicts that “somewhere in  the world we see hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, disease, and one more, and it’s a man-made calamaty, I will predict that somewhere, I’m going to say that in the Middle East, there’s violence that’s going to happen in  2013.”  

Swanson: More predictions for 2013. The fiscal cliff will become the fiscal chasm. And Dave, maybe a calamity for New Orleans. No, we already had one there. New York? No. San Francisco. Have we had one there? Not since, wasn’t there like an earthquake there many years ago?

Buehner: Well, there are all kinds of calamities. New York had their calamity, Mayor Bloomberg. I mean, that’s a calamity. They got drenched with less than 16 ounces of drink over a hurricane.

Swanson: Yeah, they did.

Buehner: And San Francisco has their calamity, they have Nancy Pelosi.

Swanson: We’ll see what happens. I have a feeling there is a God and America has not repented yet. Follow my logic here, Dave. Ok, there is a God, that’s proposition A.  Proposition B, Premise B, America has not repented. Premise C, God has sent these kind of calamities before. So here’s the conclusion: there will be more. Ok, follow me? Follow the logic there?

Buehner: Yeah. I’m thinking that somewhere in  the world we see hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, disease, and one more, and it’s a man-made calamaty, I will predict that somewhere, I’m going to say that in the Middle East, there’s violence that’s going to happen in 2013.
 

Tony Perkins Attacks DAR Moves Toward Religious Inclusion

The "War on Christmas" season is over, but the Religious Right's campaign to portray Christianity under attack in America continues.  You might be surprised which organization the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins is slamming as hostile to Christianity -- it's that notoriously radical group, the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Perkins' attack on the DAR makes it clear just how narrowly the Religious Right views the role of religion in our society -- and how they twist thoughtful efforts to promote respectful, inclusive religious language into an assault on Christians and Christianity.

In this week's Washington Update, Perkins promotes a breathless report from Fox News' Todd Starnes, which recycles complaints about 2011 changes the DAR made to its Ritual and Missal in order to make its prayers more inclusive of non-Christians who might be members of the group or participants at its events.  Starnes reported, incorrectly, that the DAR had directed members to refrain from praying in the name of Christ. Here's Perkins:

For the organization, which was established in 1890, this signals a dramatic change in the strong Judeo-Christian roots of the DAR. After all, this is a service group meant to perpetuate the memory of the American Revolution and the values for which we fought. Like it or not, those values and our nation's identity were rooted in the Christian tradition. And while society may have changed over the years, the intentions of our founders--to build a godly nation--has not.

Note Perkins' odd use of "Judeo-Christian" to complain about changes that removed prayers in the name of Jesus Christ (the materials are still full of hymns and prayers to God). The "Judeo" in Perkins' "Judeo-Christian" is a fig leaf the Religious Right uses to mask the fact that they are promoting the notion of a Christian nation.

The DAR's President General Merry Ann T. Wright, herself a Christian, addressed false charges that the group's revisions rendered organizational documents godless months ago in a series of blog posts. Here's part of what she had to say last April:

The Executive Officers believe that the new Ritual and Missal can be used by members of any faith, substituting words as they wish, changing the prayers to suit the needs of the meeting in which they are being used. At our Executive meetings, knowing that we are all Christian, we pray in the Name of Jesus. When those are present whose faith is unknown, we pray in God’s name. However, we all recognize that when Christians pray in God’s name we are, indeed, praying in Christ’s name because the Christian faith believes in the Trinity of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We also understand that our Jewish members know God as Jehovah or Yahweh, Muslim members use the name Allah for God and there are those whose spirituality may have a still different higher power or none at all.

We have in no way mandated that one must or must not use the name of Jesus Christ in the prayers. In our DAR rituals, prayers are included. Most of the prayers begin with “Our Father” or “Almighty God” and end “in Your Holy Name.” Christ’s prayer, known as The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, Easter and Passover prayers and prayers for other religious observances are included.

The Ritual and Missal is a guide and may be adapted to reflect the composition and thoughts of whoever is using it. There is always the option of writing other prayers or not using prayers at all. Our primary concern was to show our faithful love and respect to all who belong to DAR whatever their faith might be. We believe the current Ritual and Missal shows that respect and inclusiveness.

How does Tony Perkins respond to the DAR's goal of respect and inclusiveness? "This is blatant historical revisionism, and it's driven by the environment of hostility this administration has created toward every kind of Christian expression." Sure, Tony.

Gaffney: Obama has a 'Profound Affinity for' Islamism

It is always fascinating to watch far-right activists claim that Muslims should be stripped of their First Amendment rights while denouncing the Obama administration for allegedly trying to undermine the freedom of religion all in the same breath.

Take, for example, Frank Gaffney, who testified in a Tennessee court on behalf of a group that tried to ban a mosque by arguing that Islam is not be protected under the First Amendment. He spoke with Eagle Forum head Phyllis Schlafly yesterday about Obama, whom Gaffney thinks is likely a secret Muslim, about his purported “assaults” on religious freedom.

After Schlafly named a series of lawsuits (most of which had no connection to the Obama administration) that she says prove Obama is hostile to the First Amendment, Gaffney asserted that Obama is not only trying to impose a “secularist agenda” but also champion “unalloyed efforts to promote Islamism.” He argued that Obama has a “profound affinity for” Islamism and asked Schlafly how that squares with his secularism.

Schlafly, however, couldn’t come up with a coherent answer besides arguing that Obama is wrong for saying that “we are not a Christian nation” since that’s “what the founding fathers were saying all the time.”

Gaffney: These seem sort of like small and unconnected assaults, but one of the places where we see and you write very powerfully about, this coming to ahead as you say, is the exception to his secularist agenda, which seems to be President Obama’s profound affinity for and I would argue unalloyed efforts to promote Islamism. Tell us what that’s about and how that’s translating into further problematic behavior with respect to our religious freedoms.

Schlafly: Well my book, No Higher Power, shows how he is trying to completely secularize our country but he is giving a pass to Islam. You find that he doesn’t attack Islam and he went over to one of those countries and announced that we are not a Christian nation, but America is a Christian nation, look at all of our founding documents and what the founding fathers were saying all the time and the very beginning. It is very peculiar the way he gives a pass to Islam.

Maybe Schlafly and Gaffney can read Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography where he explicitly states that Muslims have religious freedom and no religion has a privileged status, or see the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli negotiated by George Washington and ratified unanimously under John Adams which reads in part:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility [sic], of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never have entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Does Randy Forbes Understand How the First Amendment Works?

One of the most remarkable things about the Religious Right today is the amazingly widespread belief that any criticism or disagreement with their agenda is somehow a violation of their First Amendment rights. 

The Religious Right seems to truly believe that the First Amendment protects their rights to say anything they wish while simultaneously rendering them immune from criticism or opposition, as if the very same First Amendment that protects their free speech rights does not protect the free speech rights of those who disagree with them.

Case in point:  the day after the election, the American Humanist Association sent a letter to all the newly elected members of Congress, encouraging them not to join the Congressional Prayer Caucus. But to Rep. Randy Forbes, founder of the Prayer Caucus, this is nothing more than an attempt to "censor people" and prevent them from talking about their faith, as he explained on "Wallbuilders Live" today:

None of us, and no member of our caucus believes, that we want government to dictate what the church should do and we don't want the church dictating what the government should do.

But these extremist groups try to switch that around and they try to carry it to another dimension where they don't want anybody in government to have the right to even speak about their faith, or prayer, or God, or religion.  And they don't want anyone in the church to be able to speak about government.

What they want to do is censor people from their faith and from their First Amendment rights.

Members of Congress have the right to join the Prayer Caucus if they want, just as others have a right to ask them not to do so.  That is how the First Amendment works. 

Disagreement is not censorship and the Constitution does not protect you from criticism.

Swanson and Ham: Young Earth Creationists at 'Omaha Beach in the War of the Worldviews'

Generations Radio’s Kevin Swanson spoke yesterday with Creation Museum president Ken Ham, who has written a book about how many Christian colleges “are going the way of Yale, Harvard and Princeton” and rejecting young earth creationism.

Ham recently lashed out at televangelist Pat Robertson after Right Wing Watch reported Robertson’s rejection of the idea that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. In his interview with Swanson, Ham accused churches and Christian colleges of “open[ing] the door to allow the philosophy of naturalism, and evolution, millions of years, to permeate into God’s word,” warning, “If we don’t shut that door, we’re going to lose this culture, America will be the England and Europe of tomorrow.”

“As you write this book,” Swanson asked, “Do you get the sense that you are effectively very, very close to Omaha Beach in the war of the worldviews?”

Ham: Evolution, millions of years, he naturalistic philosophy that permeates our education system, that’s really the religion of this age to explain life without God. And much of our church, our church leaders, have adopted that religion, sadly, and compromised it with God’s word.

Swanson: Ken, as you write this book, ‘Already Compromised,’ do you get the sense that you are effectively very, very close to Omaha Beach in the war of the worldviews? I mean, you are right there, where the ideas are being formulated, where the minds and the lives of the next generation are being formed by the millions across this country, I mean this is an important battle.

Ham: It is, it’s an extremely important battle. Because, you know what, it only takes one generation to lose a culture. That’s all it takes. And if you can capture one generation, you’ll have the culture. And just as, you know, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan river and there were 12 stones to remind the next generation of what God did and what did we find? They weren’t reminded, the next generation, they lost it in one generation, we’re losing this culture before our very eyes today because the church opened the door to allow the philosophy of naturalism, and evolution, millions of years, to permeate into God’s word. We need to shut that door. If we don’t shut that door, that’s where the battle’s at right now, if we don’t shut that door, we’re going to lose this culture, America will be the England and Europe of tomorrow.

Joni Lamb: America is a Christian Nation and if You Don't Like it, 'You Shouldn't Live Here'

Recently, Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute appeared on the Christian television program "Joni" along with David Barton to discuss the report that Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council released entitled "The Survey on Religious Hostility in America."

During the discussion, Shackelford mentioned a legal fight that took place in Texas last year over a high-school valedictorian who wanted to say a prayer during her graduation speech.  The student ultimately won the right to do so, which prompted host Joni Lamb to declare it a victory for free speech, saying "that if you live in America and you understand that we are a Christian society then you can't be offended by things like that or you shouldn't live here": 

Barber: Gay Marriage is a Weapon Designed to Destroy Religious Liberty

On Liberty Counsel's "Faith and Freedom" radio program, Mat Staver and Matt Barber discussed a lawsuit filed by a lesbian couple against the owners of Liberty Ridge Farms in upstate New York after they refused to allow the couple to hold their wedding on the grounds, citing religious objections. 

For Barber, this was proof that the push for marriage equality is not actually about marriage or equality, but simply nothing more than "a political and legal calculus that is being used as a weapon to destroy religious liberty": 

Barton Blames PFAW and Others for Creating 'Toxic" Environment Responsible for Christian Persecution

In August, the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council released a joint report entitled "The Survey on Religious Hostility in America" which purported to be a "collection of more than 600 cases, detailing religious bigotry throughout America" ... but, for some reason, the incident they love to cite more than any other is a nearly twenty year old myth about an elementary school student who was supposedly yanked out of his seat and yelled at simply for praying before eating his lunch in the school cafeteria.

In reality, the student was disciplined for fighting in the lunch room in 1994 but the Religious Right continues to perpetuate this lie to this day. In fact, David Barton cites it repeatedly despite the fact that it is demonstrably false, and did so again today on "WallBuilders Live," as did the Liberty Institute's Kelly Shackelford, who was on the program to promote the report:

Barton: What does it say to that elementary kid who got jerked out of his seat and hauled to the principle's office in front of everybody else and told don't you ever pray over your lunch again, period? What kind of impression is that giving? Jesus said "suffer the little children to come unto me" and we're doing our best to say "absolutely no way, absolutely not will we ever allow any kid to get to you" ... this is crazy stuff.

Shackelford: It's all the way from a ten-year old boy who was quote "caught" praying over his meal in the lunch cafeteria who was lifted out of his chair and carried to the principle's office where he was told to never do that again while he was at school.

Even though this incident never actually happened, Barton sees it as proof that we at PFAW and other groups have created a "toxic" and "hostile" environment in which public officials are pressured into persecuting Christians:

Barton: And I really blame this climate on the secular groups, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Americans United, the People For the American Way, the Military Freedom Foundation, all these guys who have so made the climate so toxic that if you share your faith, public officials feel like they have to come down on you with both feet otherwise they'll get sued and end up in court and have to spend millions of dollars defending something religions. And so these guys have created such a hostility in the public that now public officials and school officials and city council officials and those who run senior's centers and everything else are so scared to death of seeing faith that if they see it, they feel like they have to jump on it with both feet and both hands and bring out the hammers and run over you with a car and pull out a chainsaw and cut you to pieces. They over-react and I really blame a lot of those organizations. 

Right Wing Round-Up - 10/4/12

Anti-Choice Activists to Engage in Civil Disobedience Over Contraception Mandate This Weekend

It looks like this weekend will kick off the Religious Right's latest protest against the Obama administration's contraception mandate with something called ActsFive29 in which activists plan to descend on the White House and risk arrest in announcing that they will never comply with the mandate. 

The event takes its name from the Bible passage which declares "we must obey God rather than men" and is being sponsored by a handful of radical anti-choice groups including Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, the Christian Defense Coalition, Pro-life Action League, Operation Rescue, Priests for Life, and the American Family Association.

For 72 hours, they plan to carry out a "vigil of prayer, public witness and arrests at the White House" because "we must obey God rather than man or soon jail may be the only option":

We are a nation ruled by those we choose by our votes. So we are sending those in elected office a warning: you hold office because we chose you — and we will not comply! We will not pay the $1 monthly abortion surcharge, we will not pay for abortion-inducing drugs and other unconscionable practices demanded of us through the HHS mandate, and we will not surrender our freedoms as delineated in the Declaration and our Constitution.

And we will go to jail before we do.

Today our arrests will be voluntary, a living witness to the church and to the government — tomorrow arrest may be the only option if we are unwilling to pay to have someone’s child murdered.

Please join with us as we send a powerful message to those within the church and to our elected officials through peaceful civil disobedience! Just as MLK was arrested for the rights of his fellow men, so we will stand. This will be 72 hours of continuous prayer and arrests in front of the White House! This moment is fraught with an unprecedented “urgency of the hour”; thus, we are issuing a national call for Christians, and all our fellow Americans of whatever creed, to come to the White House and be part of this prayerful, peaceful, and prophetic witness for life and justice: ActsFive29.

Join us September 29 through October 2, 2012 as we humbly and boldly lay down our lives and our freedom so that future generations will have that freedom, and the liberty to practice their faith.

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